Cooke Aquaculture to buy Hermitage-Sandyville processing plant

Terry Roberts
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Mixed reaction to sale

Cooke Aquaculture is about to add a significant piece of infrastructure to its south coast operations, and it could bode well for the town of Hermitage-Sandyville.

But it could also mean significant losses for Harbour Breton.

The New Brunswick-based company confirmed Thursday that it has reached a deal to purchase the fish plant in Hermitage-Sandyville from Ocean Choice International (OCI).

The fish plant is shown in Hermitage-Sandyville. - Submitted Photo

Cooke Aquaculture is about to add a significant piece of infrastructure to its south coast operations, and it could bode well for the town of Hermitage-Sandyville.

But it could also mean significant losses for Harbour Breton.

The New Brunswick-based company confirmed Thursday that it has reached a deal to purchase the fish plant in Hermitage-Sandyville from Ocean Choice International (OCI).

The company plans to use the facility as a service depot for feed distribution and maintenance needs to support its farms in Hermitage Bay.

But company spokeswoman Nell Halse said it hasn't ruled out the possibility of processing farmed salmon at the plant sometime in the future.

The company currently processes its salmon at a leased plant in Harbour Breton, and employs nearly 350 people on the Connaigre Peninsula, including 190 on the processing side.

"We will continue to do that for the immediate future," Halse said of the processing operation in Harbour Breton.

"But we are looking at all the options for the long term for our processing on the south coast."

But any plans to move the 190 jobs its currently creates in Harbour Breton will be met with stiff opposition.

Harbour Breton Mayor Eric Skinner was fuming when contacted Thursday evening by The Telegram.

He said his town has done everything possible to accommodate Cooke Aquaculture, and will not allow it to abandon the town.

"Nothing will leave that facility as long as I'm mayor," Skinner said, "and the 1,800 residents here will back me up.

"It will rot with the building."

Hermitage-Sandyville is about a 50-kilometre commute from Harbour Breton.

Its mayor, Doug Rose, said he would wait to comment on the sale until he learns more about what employment opportunities the deal will bring.

But he said he was generally "positive" about the announcement.

The sale may be a Godsend for the town of roughly 500 residents, since OCI had no plans to operate the plant this year.

OCI employed roughly 50 seasonal workers at the plant in 2009. A spokesperson for OCI said those workers will be offered employment at its crab processing plant in St. Lawrence.

OCI officials will meet with those affected by the sale in the coming days, said Blaine Sullivan, the company's chief operating officer.

Cooke Aquaculture has developed a significant presence on the south coast since arriving in 2006, and has further plans for growth, Halse said. It also plans to open a hatchery in St. Alban's this year.

"We've built a lot of infrastructure, and this will be one more piece," Halse said.

But Skinner said that growth should not come at the expense of Harbour Breton.

He said the town's workforce is world-class and has ensured a profitable operation for Cooke.

Skinner stressed he's not against any other community benefitting from Cooke's growth, but argues the company must not turn its back on his town.

"I hope that both can co-exist," he said, adding his town council will meet today to discuss a response.

Meanwhile, the sale agreement is expected to be finalized by the end of June.

Sullivan said the decision to sell was based on the "declining raw material base" to support the Hermitage operation.

He said the sale "ensures a future for the (Hermitage-Sandyville) operation going forward."

Halse said the Hermitage-Sandyville plant is strategically located, since the company uses the facility's wharf to service its fish farms.

Being able to store large quantities of feed at the site will also be an advantage, she added.

As for questions about employment, Halse said, "We haven't got that sorted out."

Cooke Aquaculture is an industry leader in farmed salmon, and Halse believes there are opportunities for further growth in this province.

But she said the federal and provincial governments also have a role to play by finalizing a management plan for the sector.

She said the company recently achieved another milestone by earning Seafood Trust Certification, a highly accredited quality standard that is recognized internationally.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: OCI, Seafood Trust Certification

Geographic location: Harbour Breton

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments